Express Message Service
KALABURAGI: Basavaraj Konek has come a long way since his apprenticeship in a bookshop as a teenager – he is now an author, publisher and bookshop owner in Kalaburagi. At the age of 70, he can look back on the twists and turns of his life, the many chances he took and the opportunities he was given to achieve what he has today.
Siddalingeshwar Book Mall and Book Depot, which he has maintained over the years, is a treasury of tomes, particularly textbooks, which are always available at a discount. At least 1.5 lakh books of different categories are available in the store. Konek has also published books by about 2,000 writers from the Kalyana Karnataka region. Born in 1952 to Gurappa and Itabai on Basava Jayanti, he spent his childhood in poverty and struggle. His parents managed to get him admitted to school, but he lost his father when he finished 10th grade, meaning he couldn’t pay the Rs 13.50 for his SSLC review.
Basavaraj got a job at Dharmapal Arya’s book depot and earned his exam fee. But with the family’s financial burden weighing heavily on his young shoulders, Basavaraj was forced to seek a new job at Bhavikatti’s Book Stall, where he was paid a princely sum of Rs 80 a month. Here Basavaraj made many contacts and became a favorite of customers.
People visiting Bhavikatti’s bookstall began to identify Basavaraj as “namma huduga” (our boy). As an intelligent young man, he learned valuable lessons about business acumen, humility and faith in customers. Here he understood the importance of books and that they could be a good business idea. After more than seven years in the business, Basavaraj entertained the idea of opening his own bookstore, knowing full well that it would mean entering a highly competitive field. Although he was offered the position of village accountant, he turned it down and in 1977 opened a small bookshop, more like a paan stand, near Jagat Circle. He was overjoyed when he earned 1.25 rupees from his first client.
Sheer hard work and keen trading skills helped him take his fledgling business to a new level and eventually he opened a book center.
From the store to the publisher
After a few years, Basavaraj took his first step in the publishing industry with paperbacks for SSLC students on subjects like Kannada and social studies, which he wrote himself with the help of college professors. He worked hard to market his paperbacks, visited every high school, spoke to principals, teachers and students.
The relationship he has developed with stakeholders in education – teachers, faculty, principals, librarians and administrators – has been a great boon in furthering his business activities. His idea of growing the company envisaged that his two sons would spend at least an hour every day in his shop, in addition to their schooling, to learn the trade. While his first son Siddalinga is B.Com graduate, his second son Sharan completed his MBA. His wife Basamma was a trader for MSIL and gained recognition for her work.
The opportunity to expand his business came when Gulbarga University was spun off as a separate entity from Karnatak University, Dharwad. As the owner of a textbook store, it was important to him that all textbooks were available to the students. Initially, Gulbarga University students had to follow Karnatak University’s curriculum, with only a chapter or two of localized content, but even for that they had to fight for study material. Konek responded to their needs and meeting professors and lecturers led them to write books which he published. Thus he became the sole editor of all books required by Gulbarga University.
Encouraged, he published 25 books under the direction of short story writer Balachandra Jaishetty in 2002 to celebrate the silver anniversary of his book business. He has another favorite task: encouraging budding and veteran writers of the Kalyana Karnataka region. To this end, he began publishing at least 25 books each year, giving writers their dues, along with 25 free books. This year he has published 125 books written by different authors on different subjects.